Pragmatic Apparatus – Painting with data: Alternative aesthetics of qualitative research

Cited by Lee Sonogan

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Abstract by Andrew Balmer

In this article I outline an original creative method for qualitative research, namely the painting with data technique. This is a participatory methodology which brings creativity and participation through to the analytical phase of qualitative research. Crucially, I acknowledge but also challenge the dominant aesthetic that currently shapes qualitative research and renders life in a monochromatic palette. The painting with data method evidences an alternative aesthetic to the predominant one and I argue that we can understand this methodology by adapting Jennifer Mason’s concept of ‘layering’ to conceptualise how different aesthetics help us to see the different shapes, forms and moulds that make us, our relationships and our worlds. The process moves away from traditional ways of treating transcribed data, and prioritises addition above extraction; juxtaposition over thematisation; and collaging rather than ordering. This alternative aesthetic for qualitative research offers an evocative form and a conceptual schema through which to interpret the world, providing a route to novel insights, that enlivens the interpretative work of the analyst and offers opportunities to make and witness potent connections.

Publications: The Sociological Review (Peer-Reviewed Journal

Pub Date: Feb 8, 2021 Doi:

Keywords: aesthetics, creative methods, dementia, painting, qualitative methods, transcripts (Plenty more sections and references in this research article)

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